“A rightwing thinktank has been offering potential US donors access to government ministers and civil servants as it raises cash for research to support the free-trade deals demanded by hardline Brexiters, according to an investigation.
The director of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) was secretly recorded telling an undercover reporter that funders could get to know ministers on first-name terms and that his organisation was in “the Brexit influencing game”.
Mark Littlewood claimed the IEA could make introductions to ministers and said the thinktank’s trade expert knew Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, David Davis and Liam Fox well.
The IEA chief was also recorded suggesting potential US donors could fund and shape “substantial content” of research commissioned by the thinktank.
This could hugely benefit US farmers by lifting the ban on the sale in the UK of beef from cattle treated with growth hormones and chlorine-washed chicken.
Speaking about what kind of Westminster access the IEA could provide donors with, Littlewood told the investigator: “I have absolutely no problem with people who have business interests, us facilitating those.”
The investigation, undertaken in May and June, also revealed the thinktank had already provided access to a minister for a US organisation.
The disclosures are likely to raise fresh questions about the independence and status of the IEA, which is established as an educational charity. Charity Commission rules state that “an organisation will not be charitable if its purposes are political”. …”